In the wake of Van Jones' dismissal from the White House, there's much anger on the left and celebration on the right.
But three writers take a step back to evaluate the firing of Jones, a
reformed radical who quickly went from unknown to radioactive after a
big push from conservative pundits like Glenn Beck. Liberal Jane
Hamsher, conservative Ed Morrissey, and libertarian Conor Friedersdorf
have all penned bold, provocative arguments on the long-term
implications of this episode.
Progressives Stuck in the Veal Pen Jane Hamsher equated the role of liberal activists in the White House agenda to that of a veal cow trapped in a veal pen. Progressive groups are controlled by the White House, kept emaciated and powerless, and exploited for support and donations, Hamsher argued.
The truth is -- they've all been sucked into insulating the White House from liberal critique, and protecting the administration's ability to carry out a neoliberal agenda that does not serve the interests of their members. They spend their time calculating how to do the absolute minimum to retain their progressive street cred and still walk the line of never criticizing the White House.
If these groups, if these liberal leaders, let Jones just hang there while Glenn Beck pounds his chest and celebrates the scalp, we have no liberal institutions. What we have are a bunch of neoliberal enablers who have found a nice comfortable place in the DC establishment that they don't want to jeopardize, a place on the new K-Street gravy train that they don't want to lose. Dropping Van Jones from their rolodex is a small price to pay.An End to Fringe Mainstreaming Ed Morrissey argued that Jones sets a new precedent for what we will and will not accept from public officials. The raised standard, he wrote, will be enforced especially aggressively against Republicans.
If there is going to be a serious progressive movement in this country capable of standing up for health care against an industry that spends $1.4 million a day on lobbying, we can't just look to the members of the Progressive Caucus and say "hey, you, get something done." They need cover. They need to know that they will be supported. And people like Van Jones who have given their lives to causes we say we value like prison reform and environmental advocacy need to know that they will be defended, and not handed over to Glenn Beck as an acceptable casualty in the battle for K-Street dollars.
In the next Republican administration, we can expect a great deal of scrutiny for Presidential advisers. For one thing, it means that no one who ever expressed public support for Birthers to get the benefit of the doubt. The two conspiracy theories are different, but they both are entirely speculative and imagine dark conspiracies at the highest orbits of power, and neither have any actual direct evidence for support. Anyone who signed a Birther petition can expect to get bypassed for political appointments in a Republican White House with a halfway-decent vetting team, strictly on the basis of politics, in the wake of Jones’ resignation.
The media and the leftward parts of the New Media will get to work in the meantime on advisers and staffers of Republicans in Congress, and in the New Media itself. They will use the Van Jones Standard to launch attacks on high-profile conservatives, looking for everything from John Birch Society membership to militias and Birtherism as well.Prominence of Fringe Movements Conor Friedersdorf wrote that Jones revealed a troubling and largely unkown trend within both political parties. Fringe radicals, he suggested, are tolerated and often successful because of their loyalty to the party and because partisan institutions accept or even encourage their rise.
Today’s reminder is that just as the grassroots right traffics in its paranoid nonsense, the grassroots left has subsections of people who are sympathetic to militant Marxism, 9/11 trutherism, and other idiocies that don’t seem to hurt their rise in that movement. This is why the average American is deeply suspicious of career political activists and people who rise via both parties into low level administration posts. They’re right to be! A lot of true believers climb ideological ladders in this country and wind up in government, leaving the average citizen upset because they suspect there are plenty of folks who aren’t ideological extremists, but are nevertheless qualified to fill those posts — they just don’t happen work in circles with connections to a partisan political world where loyalty to the cause is prized above all else.
All sorts of low-level [Bush administration] posts were filled with people who happened to harbor extreme views of one sort or another — whether radical evangelical views or outside the mainstream foreign policy views or anti-immigrant views or even Smith Point misogynistic views — that President Bush decidedly didn’t share. They got their jobs because they were “in the movement,” secured loyalties by working within it, and happened to hold odious positions that bothered the president less than other odious positions because they belonged to kinds of people he knew personally, who seemed good-hearted in general, and were “on the same team.”